In Our Friends from Frolix 8, the world is run by an elite few. And what determines whether one is part of the elite isn’t wealth or privilege, but brains. As children, every citizen of Earth is tested; some are found to be super-smart New Men and some are Unusuals with various psychic powers. The vast majority are Undermen, performing menial jobs in an overpopulated world. Nick Appleton is an Underman, content to eke out an existence as a tire regroover. But after his son is classified as an Underman, Appleton begins to question the hierarchy. Strengthening his resolve, and energizing the resistance movement, is news that the great resistance leader Thors Provoni is returning from a trip to the farthest reaches of space. And he’s brought help: a giant, indestructible alien.
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"We may all be that soon. Unhatched eggs sat on by a cosmic chicken." - Philip K. Dick, Our Friends from Frolix 8
I'm not sure how it stands as far as pages read, but in books read - no one is close for me to Philip K. Dick. I think this makes 29 or 30 of Dick's novels I've read (I won't count the LOA versions for the total, obviously). Just in case you are wondering, Nabokov, le Carré and Roth and the 2, 3, 4th place finishers (so far). When I think of PKD - the two-word description I keep coming back to is messy genius. In many ways (and this may just be influenced by some recent readings of Vollmann, etc.) Dick is similar to William T Vollmann (bear with me). They both are hypergraphic in their need to make some sense of the world (PKD peers ahead, Vollmann peers into the now and the past) through their words. They aren't aiming for polish, they are searching for truth and truth might just required 100,000+ words. Dick's genius seems to be not just that of a futurist, but as someone who is able to look forward with available information, see where technology, politics, religion will converge in the future (and I'm not sure there is anyone with a better grasp of this ever) AND then explore all the moral, social, religious ramifications. If he was just a futurist, that would be one thing. He reads the future and then writes about the consequences.
Anyway, 'Our Friends from Frolix 8' explores a future where political power rests with "unusuals" (telepaths) and "new men" (hyper-geniuses). Again, it is interesting to read this book along side Yuval Noah Harari Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harari is trying to predict what will happen with the future evolution of man, man and machine, and machine. Dick is already there and his paints are wet, canvas tight, and brushes moving furiously. I think this PKD novel is probably under-read, under-appreciated. It doesn't have the same cachet as his more popular and more notable novels, but there is something deeply arresting about it.
I have written in other reviews about Patrick O'Brian and how I'm amazed that he could write 20 fantastic novels about basically the same thing (2 friends on a boat?). Here is additional proof that all someone needs are some good themes (drugs, paranoia, technology, religion, corporatism, consumption of the individual, etc.) and a genius can produce an almost infinite stack of entertaining books.
Not the best Dick ever but worth a read for sure. There were a few chapters, mainly philosophical that really made the book for me. As I heard someone say, if you only read one PKD book this probably shouldn't be it. If you're like me and read the first one and then within a few days had several others under your belt grab it. I will say the performance was outstanding. Each character was extremely unique from the others and captured the essence of what each was going through in every bit of dialogue, the dialogue just felt incredibly real and with some characters it changed greatly as they went through different changes and emotions, this is the main reason I gave the overall a 5 star.